Anti-abortion activists adopt a new tactic: tracking license plates


On nearly every weekday morning between late 2010 and this spring, Eileen Romano stood outside a Beaumont abortion clinic to do what she could to fight a procedure she saw as morally wrong.

Unlike traditional so-called sidewalk advocates, however, Romano did not simply try to talk the arriving women out of having their abortions. She also sought to get the clinic closed with a tactic that is becoming increasingly common in the Texas anti-abortion community: tracking license plates.

Romano wrote down the numbers on the cars that parked outside the facility, checking to ensure the plates showed up twice - for a pre-abortion consultation required by state law and the procedure itself. If a car only came once, she said, it was a sign the doctor had done the abortion without a consultation, and the 63-year-old activist made a note to potentially report to state regulators.


Disclaimer: I ran into the Houston Chronicle’s paywall, so I wasn’t able to read the entire article. If it has relevant information regarding my comment, please let me know.

Okay, my initial take is that the tactic is clever, but not conclusive evidence that someone has made only one visit. She may have arrived via a different vehicle on another day. For this reason, I can’t imagine this tactic being useful in court.


Apart from which it also strikes me as an invasion of privacy, if I saw someone writing down my licence plate I’d get out and ask them were they a police officer and if not what they thought they were doing.


I think that’s an invasion of privacy and going way too far.


Here is article elsewhere. Just on a side note, how much was the Houston Chronicle willing to give you to read from their website?


Well if you were pulling into an abortion clinic in the US you would probably figure they were trying to name and shame you in some sort of way.


I’m not sure about the privacy issue since the liscence plate is visable to everybody. The woman can’t know who the car belongs to.

I can’t see it as helpful in any way though for the reason Coatimundi pointed out but also the women could have changed their minds after the initial visit. I also imagine the state regulators are very sick of her reports and give them the attention they deserve.


The person may even have changed her mind about the abortion. It doesn’t prove anything and it’s a huge invasion of privacy.


Which is not a tactic I would condone.


Invasion of privacy???:rolleyes:

Why do you believe that you have a right to privacy in a public place? The idea of privacy is what has gotten out of hand.


How is this an invasion of privacy? License plate numbers are not private.


I am surprised to see people here argue a right to privacy in obtaining an abortion. We just had a thread about forcing food and water on a woman to prevent an abortion and now we are going to argue that a woman’s privacy should be respected if she tries to terminate.


License plate numbers may not be private, who they belong to is. At least in the states I’ve lived in you can’t write down a license plate number and ask a cop to look it up for me or go to the BMV and ask them to tell me who it belongs to. So in that sense license plates are indeed private information.

I’m not sure that this tactic is really helpful. The people writing these plates down assume immediately that if they see a license plate number only once over a short period that something illegal has occurred. Proving that something illegal occurred based on the absence of re-visit a few days later does not make a very strong case.



The article notes a public website which allows people to put in a license plate number and get the name of the person who must own the car, that is a public website which allows to do that, so if a public website allows people to get the name of that person, then they can’t be doing anything illegal by recording the number plates.


Or that the person was entirely insane and intended to do me harm.

There are many reasons a woman may only go once to an abortion clinic. Some go for other services such as contraception or STD testing and/or treatment. Some who actually are having abortions may have gotten their counseling and other state requirements taken care of at a different location. I’m sure there are also job applicants, sales people, women who go and then never come back because they changed their minds…etc. etc. Writing down the one time visitors is silly and potentially dangerous if someone takes exception to it.


It is not an invasion of privacy to write down something that is publicly displayed.


I don’t know that I’d see this as an invasion of privacy. My car sits outside all day every day. Anyone is free to write down the plate number and make/model of the car. That doesn’t really tell them too much unless they have some power to look up the information and associate it to me.

I do question the utility of the tactic, though. As others have pointed out, it could be that the woman took a different car on each visit. Or she might have changed her mind after the consultation. Or it could be the car of the receptionist’s sister who is bringing her lunch. It seems there could be lots of reasons a car would only be there once. Are the protesters outside the abortion clinic during all the hours of operation? They would have to be for the info to carry any weight at all.

I could see that if almost every car only appeared once in the parking lot that it would signify something is going on. Otherwise, it seems like conjecture. :shrug:


I think the difference is that in the other case the woman was suicidal and suffering the aftereffects of rape. She was not in her right mind and therefore unable to make medical decisions for herself.

In the cases of the women entering and leaving a clinic… A) These women are presumed to be sane and capable of making their own medical decisions. B) There is no reason to think every woman is there for abortion. Clinics often provide other gynecological services such as cervical cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and contraception.


Coatimundi can’t read the full article. Can anybody else not read it too?


The thread talking about the women who was suicidal was talking about my own nation and the law there regarding abortion is very different than that In the USA and that should be borne in mind carefully when comparing the two.

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